Shkin (Pashto: شکين) is a scattered village in Gomal District, Paktika Province, Afghanistan located about a kilometer west of the newer, much larger, and border-straddling village and bazaar of Angur Ada. Angur Ada is controlled by the Pakistan Frontier Guards. As with the area immediately to the north, the Barmal Valley, the region is primarily populated by ethnic Pashtuns who share many of the same characteristics of their neighbors in the South Waziristan Tribal Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan.
Soil conditions near Shkin are marginal and only allow for limited agricultural seasonal use. Aside from small apple orchards/farms there is only minimal economic activity. The closest competent health care can be found in Wana, Pakistan or Kabul. Ethnic tensions between the Kharotis and Wazirs remain high in this region. Until recently there were no paved roads in this Barmal Valley region. However, with the construction of the firebase, a permanent road from Urgun has made its way all the way to Barmal. The estimated elementary level literacy rate for males in the Barmal Valley is 60% and 10-20% for females in the Bermel Valley. It is an impoverished region even by Afghan standards.
The Shkin Firebase was named after this village and was renamed Firebase Lilley to honor Master Sgt. Arthur L. Lilley, a U.S. Special Forces soldier who was killed in a firefight there in 2007. This heavily fortified military base has housed mostly American special operations forces since 2002 and is located just six kilometers from the Pakistani border and resembles the Alamo. It is considered the most dangerous location in Afghanistan.
In an article in Time Magazine, the base was described as:
- "The U.S. firebase looks like a Wild West cavalry fort, ringed with coils of razor wire. A U.S. flag ripples above the 3-ft.-thick mud walls, and in the watchtower a guard scans the expanse of forested ridges, rising to 9,000 ft., that mark the border. When there's trouble, it usually comes from that direction."
Americans at the Firebase Lilley live at the front of the front line in the War. They are constant targets for al-Qa'ida and Taliban fighters who launch frequent strikes from nearby Pakistan. This border area is an unforgiving landscape, where the enemy can hide at close range while remaining invisible. When the US operators venture out in patrols along dusty tracks they have dubbed Chevy, Pontiac and Camaro, they know how easily a hunter can become prey. As U.S. Army Colonel Rodney Davis puts it, "Shkin is the evilest place in Afghanistan." The fire base has seen a great deal of enemy contact and the units that have served there have taken more casualties from enemy fire than any other location. Given the close proximity to the Pakistani border, it seems to have the most contact with enemy forces and not just in the form of (improvised explosive devices) or rocket attacks – its actual direct fire contact with the enemy. On October 25, 2003, paramilitary officers Christopher Mueller and William "Chief" Carlson from the CIA's Special Activities Division were killed while conducting an operation to kill/capture high level al-Qa'ida leaders. On 21 May 2004, these Officers were honored with Stars on the CIA Memorial Wall at their Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. "The bravery of these two men cannot be overstated," Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet told a gathering of several hundred Agency employees and family members of those killed in the line of duty. "Chris and Chief put the lives of others ahead of their own. That is heroism defined." Mueller, a former US Navy SEAL and Carlson, a former Army Special Forces soldier, Delta Force operator, and member of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana, died while on a covert operation near Shkin, Afghanistan. Both officers saved the lives of others, including Afghan soldiers, during the engagement with al-Qa'ida forces.
As described in Bob Woodward's book Obama's Wars, the CIA created Counter-Terrorism Pursuit Teams (CTPT) starting in 2001 which reached 3,000 soldiers by 2010. They are considered the "best Afghan fighting force" and unlike the Afghan National Army, very well motivated. Firebase Lilley serves as a nerve center for the covert war and a hub for these CTPT operations. These units have not only been highly effective in combat operations against the Taliban and al-Qa'ida forces, but have also been used to engage with the tribes in areas with no other official government presence. This covert war also includes a large CIA expansion into the Federally Administered Tribal Area region of Pakistan to target senior al-Qa'ida and Taliban leadership. The CTPT units are key to any exit strategy for the U.S. government to leave Afghanistan, while still being able to deny al-Qa'ida and other transnational extremists groups a safe haven.
- Camp Chapman
- Special Activities Division
- CIA Memorial Wall
- Camp Chapman attack
- Paktika Province
- Bloomberg News, September 22, 2010, Presence larger than thought
- Global Security
- Google Books Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army
- Time Magazine October 27, 2003
- CIA press release
- Special Forces Roll of Honor
- New York Times, October 29, 2003, Two CIA operatives killed
- Seattle Times, September 22, 2010, Woodward book tells of secret CIA
- Obama's War, Bob Woodward, Simon and Schuster, 2010 page 160
- Washington Post, September 23, 2010, Paramilitary force is key for CIA
- Obama's War, Bob Woodward, Simon and Schuster, 2010 page 8
- Obama's War, Bob Woodward, Simon and Schuster, 2010 page 367
- Wall Street Journal, June 29, 2010, The CIA solution for Afghanistan
-  Licensed to Kill, Hired Guns in the War on Terror by Robert Young Pelton (Crown, Sept 1, 2006)
- Map location